The Trinity River may be full of trash, but Steve Campbell, assistant director of campus recreation and outdoor programs, said he means to change that.
Campbell said he started the Trinity River Cleanup this year, which gave students the opportunity to canoe or kayak down the West Fork of the river while picking up trash and debris along the way Saturday. The event was part of the TCU LEAPS program, in which students, faculty and alumni help with community service projects around the city.
"I think the seed kind of all got planted last summer," Campbell said. "I did a little kayaking/canoe trip with some friends on the river and saw just the amount of trash that was built up and wanted to do something involving TCU and cleaning up the river in hopes to raise awareness of the opportunities the Trinity River has for people here at TCU."
Coordinating the large-scale cleanup on the river took Campbell a whole semester, but he did get help, he said.
"Initially, it just kind of started as an idea," he said. "As it became more a reality that we [outdoor programs] could do this event, we formed a student committee with all of our trip leaders."
Campbell said he split the work between himself and the six trip leaders for Outdoor Programs, but he added they also received assistance from a variety of sources. The group was able to get T-shirts made for the event due to a donation from Streams and Valleys Inc., a local nonprofit organization that promotes and raises awareness about the Trinity River through "volunteer recruiting, fundraising, development and event programming," according to its website.
Freshman nursing major Lauren Atkinson said she signed up for the cleanup because the idea of simultaneously canoeing and cleaning up the river sounded like fun. She said she was right.
Tires and strollers were just two odd items Atkinson said they pulled from the river. Other items collected included a safe, a chair and a child's wagon.
"It was kind of eye-opening, the fact that there is so much trash on the river," Atkinson said.
In addition, SMU's Outdoor Adventures lent a canoe trailer and six of its canoes to the student committee, which allowed the group to increase participation for the event, Campbell said. TCU's Outdoor Programs acquired its own fleet of six canoes and ten kayaks for rental out of the Outdoor Center just last semester.
Matt Gomez, an Outdoor Programs trip leader, said Wilmar donated nets, grabbers and trash bags for the cleanup effort. Gomez said he worked at a Wilmar warehouse over the summer, so he knew the manager and asked if he would be willing to help.
With only two 12-passenger vans to tow the canoes and kayaks, transportation for the cleanup's participants was another challenge the student committee faced, Gomez said. Fortunately, he said, they were able to pair up with LEAPS, which provided some transportation to the drop-off location at White Settlement and Isbell Roads.
Overall, participants paddled approximately four-and-a-half to five miles of the West Fork of the Trinity River, climbing out of canoes and kayaks at Heritage Park at the end of Taylor Street downtown. Campbell said he chose that stretch because it was the one he paddled last summer. Also, it was the longest and most unobstructed stretch of the river in the immediate area.
Gomez, a sophomore business information systems and supply and value chain management double major, said he grew up in Arlington but that he had never canoed or kayaked on the river before. There are many places on the Trinity where people can canoe or kayak, but most people do not realize they can go on the river because of the high volume of trash, he said.
"Yeah, there is trash, but it's a great place to go. And it's local," Gomez said. "Hopefully by doing this, we can encourage other people to use the river as well."